A password will be e-mailed to you.

Now that Caps fever is winding down, it’s time for a D.C. takeover of quite another sort. No, not just a wave of humidity. But if you want to beat the humidity and get a serious shot of culture, check out the inaugural By the People Arts Festival happening at sites all over D.C. June 21 through 24. The theme of the art festival is centered around the ideas of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The event, hosted by arts and culture incubator Halcyon, will feature dance performances (from ballet to go-go); art installations, concerts, discussions, and even a immersive art experience using a mobile app. There’s something for everyone: from the outer space fantastic to the Instagram-obsessed looking for the next cool photo to the music junkie to your arts and crafty mom visiting from out of town. The best part is that most of the events are completely free – just take a moment to register and skip the line.

Check out the festival hub list here as to where to find the activities.

Plus – here are the focus days at each hub:

  • Thursday at Washington National Cathedral: Pop-up performances throughout the afternoon and ticketed performance from Jason Moran at 8pm.
  • Friday at The Parks at Walter Reed: Pop-up performances during the afternoon culminate in the arrival of Jefferson Pinder’s installation at 5pm.
  • Saturday afternoon at THEARC: Pop-up performances during the afternoon, as well as installations featuring a marriage of emerging and established artists.
  • Saturday night at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building: the festival headquarters is open until midnight along with other Smithsonian museums in celebration of Solstice Saturday, with special evening programming.
  • Sunday at Union Market: Pop-up performances are punctuated with two major ticketed events – Wolf Trap Opera and Punk Latitudes.

Got all that?

Now, here are a just a few of the many, many events happening around town that are not to be missed:

Interactive Art Activities

Artechouse’s Augmented Reality Art Hunt-Located at the five key locations. Using Artechouse’s mobile app, some of the pieces come alive and unlock really cool elements not seen by the casual passerby.

By The People Yarnbomb Project – Located at the Parks at Walter Read, fiber artist Stacy Cantrell leads a group project to yarn bomb the park with colors that honor the nurses of past and present at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Knitters and crocheters of all ages and skills are invited to participate and all supplies will be provided for free at meet up events across the city. If you’d like to be involved in the yarn bomb creation, check out the dates and locations listed in the event link.

Maya Freelon’s Tissue Paper Sculpture Project – Freelon is one of the most exciting, talked about current artists working in sculpture. She uses tissue paper as a medium to create large scale, bright art pieces that connect draws from the heritage of quilt-making. At the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, Freemon’s project “Reciprocity Respite & Repass” will be on display and there will be a collaborative experience where you can join in on the tissue paper sculpting.

Georgia Saxelby’s “To Future Women” – Saxelby’s interactive project asks visitors to write a letter to a new generation of women 20 years in the future and post it alongside many others. This project celebrates the anniversary of the Women’s March. This project is a great way to promote hope or express fears through the written word and become a part of a piece of powerful artwork.

Georgia Saxelby, courtesy of By The People


BalletX – Philly’s premiere contemporary ballet company that’s a New York Times and The New Yorker critical darling brings their new show “The Boogeyman” to Union Market’s Dock 5 space in two performances (6/22 at 8pm and 6/23 at 2pm). If you needed any extra incentive, this performances features work by renowned choreographers Trey McIntyre and Darrell Grand Moultrie (who choreographed Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter’s World Tour). If it’s Queen Bey-approved, it’s best not to miss it. Tickets are $45 and you can buy tickets online at the link above.

Konshens the MC – Grammy hip-hop recording artist Konshens the MC brings a scaled down version of his hybrid hip-hip and storytelling show to The Smithsonian Arts and Industries building for a free pop-up performance on 6/23 at 8pm.

Ray LaMontagne with Neko Case – This folk, blues powerhouse lineup kicks off the festival with a performance at The Anthem on 6/20 at 8pm. Tickets are $55-95.

Rare Essence with Small Upsetters – By the People fest closes out in true DC style with a performance by DC Go-Go royalty Rare Essence at U St. Music Hall as part of the “Go Go Returns to U Street” series. 6/24 at 7pm. Tickets are $15.

Hong Kong Ballet courtesy of By The People


Dr. Avi Mandell – Dr. Mandell is a exoplanet scientist with the Goddard Space Center. He’ll be at the United States Institute of Peace on 6/21 at 9:30am for a free discussion with astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz to discuss the possibility of life on other planets and whether it’s worth spending billions of dollars to definitively find out the answer to that question.

Robin Hunicke – Creator and CEO of independent game studio Funomena, and all around bad-ass advocate for women in gaming and technology, discusses the effect of the internet on human interaction and whether the pros outweigh the cons. A fascinating, free discussion at the United States Institute of Peace on 6/21 at 12:30pm.

Installation Artwork 

Cell 17 – An interactive video project by local artist Kristin Adair that captures the confinement and isolation of a prison cell. Adair collaborates through audio and video with D.C.-native inmates who were sentenced as juveniles and now been incarcerated for over 20 years. Because on new laws, they are now all eligible for resentencing and potential release. The inmates share their own stories with viewers through their poetry, letters, and images. This project will be on display the entire festival length at Union Market.

Jenny E. Sabin’s LUX – MoMa featured artist brings her gorgeous, large scale knitted light installation project LUX to The Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building for the length of the festival. Visitors can walk through this immersive exhibit and experience the responsive photo-luminesent glow, which pretty much guarantees a stunning, very ‘grammable pic.

Jenny Sabin, courtesy of By The People

Full list of activities is available here: https://halcyonhouse.org/by-the-people/schedule

Pro get-around tips:

  • Courtesy shuttles will circulate between the five festival hubs from 10am – 6pm Thursday – Sunday, with shuttles arriving every 20 minutes.
  • New Lyft users Get $5 off on up to two rides using the promotional code “BYTHEPEOPLE”. Existing users, there’s a deal for you, too! Get 20% off one ride up to $4 with BYTHEPEOPLE20.

See you there!

Rachel Schmidt courtesy of By The People

feature header image: Maya Freelon